White House signals ouster of fiscal aides New economic team pledged for 2nd term

October 13, 1992|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,Staff Writer

HOLLAND, Mich. -- Still trying to convince voters in the final three weeks of President Bush's lagging re-election campaign that he is serious about dealing with the stagnant economy, the White House signaled yesterday that the president plans to fire his controversial fiscal advisers if he wins a second term.

And in another sign of the increasing concern that is dogging Mr. Bush's campaign, his formerly reclusive chief of staff is set to emerge this week as chief salesman of the president's economic plan.

James A. Baker III, who Mr. Bush said Sunday would serve in his next term as economic czar, is scheduled to elaborate today or tomorrow on plans for putting the president's "Agenda for American Renewal" into effect.

Those plans include naming a "new economic team" for a second Bush term, said presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater, who accompanied Mr. Bush on a campaign stop here. He left open the possibility that not all of the current officials would be replaced, but another senior administration official said they would.

The chief architects of Mr. Bush's fiscal policy for the past four years have been Richard G. Darman, director of the Office of Management and Budget, Treasury Secretary Nicholas F. Brady and Michael J. Boskin, chairman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers.

The long-resisted tactic of firing economic aides has been kicked around by Bush officials since the dismal economic numbers first started to spell doom for the president's re-election almost a year ago, campaign officials said.

But now, one day after the first of three presidential debates that are widely thought to be his last chance to avoid relinquishing his job to Democrat Bill Clinton, the personnel change holds new appeal for the president.

That also applies to Mr. Baker, who the president acknowledged just a week ago had hopes of returning as secretary of state in a second Bush administration. Now Mr. Bush has had to sacrifice those hopes to show voters that his most trusted aide would be taking on what voters consider the most important job.

Until last weekend, Mr. Baker had remained almost completely behind the scenes at the White House since he was summoned by the president from the State Department in August to try to revive Mr. Bush's re-election hopes.

"It's no secret that a lot of voters feel that [the president] did not pay enough attention to the domestic agenda over the past couple years," Robert M. Teeter, the president's campaign manager, said yesterday morning. "Baker is the most able person in Washington, probably the most able in the country. . . . This shows Bush's No. 1 priority would be the domestic economy."

But George Stephanopoulos, communications director for the Clinton campaign, said Mr. Bush's re-election slogan should now be: "Vote for me, and I promise to fire my staff."

Mr. Darman and Mr. Brady are particularly unloved by Republican conservatives, who blame them for advocating a hands-off policy on the economy, except for the budget deal that required Mr. Bush to break his no-new-taxes pledge.

But if anyone survives, it is most likely to be Mr. Darman, a career civil servant who is close to Mr. Baker and who is actively aiding Mr. Bush's campaign.

Mr. Baker sent a memorandum yesterday to all senior Cabinet officials and political appointees, asking that they comply with a "customary White House request" to submit their resignations. The practice is not usually applied before a president is elected to a second term, however.

In a speech today or tomorrow, Mr. Baker is expected to talk about developing the legislation to implement the president's economic program, a compilation of proposals offered over the past year that was recently assembled by Mr. Baker.

The key features of Mr. Bush's plan include a cut in the capital gains tax and an across-the-board income tax cut for the middle class that would be financed by cuts in mandatory spending, such as Medicare and Medicaid.

"It offers the promise of a very different America than the tax-and-spend" plan of his chief opponent, Mr. Bush told a gathering of several thousand supporters at Hope College here. He made a similar speech earlier yesterday at a rally in Springfield, Pa., a predominantly Republican suburb of Philadelphia, where Mr. Clinton was also campaigning.

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